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Brazil Releases 10,000 Mosquitoes to Combat Dengue Fever

Update Date: Sep 25, 2014 11:08 AM EDT

Brazil announced that it would fight dengue fever with the help of mosquitoes. According to researchers from the Rio de Janeiro-based Fiocruz research institute, they have released thousands of mosquitoes that have been genetically modified with bacteria that can fight dengue fever.

In this program, which started back in 2012, researchers headed by Luciano Moreira injected mosquitoes with a bacterium known as Wolbachia. Wolbachia can be found in 60 percent of all insects and cannot be given to humans. Once the bacterium enters the body of an Aedes aegypti mosquito, it acts like a vaccine can prevent the dengue virus from growing. The researchers stated that ideally, these modified mosquitoes would breed and multiply, and eventually become the majority within the mosquito population.

"Our teams performed weekly visits to the four neighborhoods in Rio being targeted. Mosquitoes were analyzed after collection in special traps," Moreira stated according to BBC News. "Transparency and proper information for the households is a priority. "

Wolbachia also affects reproduction. If an infected male mosquito fertilizes the eggs of uninfected females, the eggs will not become larvae. If both the males and females are contaminated with the bacteria or if only the female mosquito is contaminated, all offspring will carry the bacteria. Similar mosquito programs are also taking place in Australia, Vietnam and Indonesia. In Australia, the program started in 2008 at the University of Monash.

Dengue fever is a caused by a virus spread through mosquitoes. Although it is not a fatal infection, it can lead to severe joint pain and headaches. From 2009 to 2014, Brazil had the most cases of dengue fever with 3.2 million and 800 deaths.

The researchers stated that they would release 10,000 mosquitoes each month for up to four months. The first release will be in Tubiacanga, which is north of Rio.

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